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Playoff Journal, May 1
by Larry Ness - 05/01/2014
Wednesday saw two teams take 3-2 leads in their series (Raptors over the Nets and Spurs over the Mavs), while the Rockets staved off elimination by beating the Blazers 108-98 in Houston. Yes, home teams went 3-0 SU on Wednesday but again, struggled ATS at 1-2 (recap coming later). I’ll start with the Rockets/Blazers series, which had seen THREE of the first four games go into OT. This game looked like it might go an extra-session as well, when Lillard’s layup cut the Houston lead to 100-98 with 3:39 left. However, the Blazers would not score again.
Howard entered this game averaging 27.0 PPG and 14.7 RPG but with his team down 3-1, he was being asked, “what’s up?” After all, Portland's Aldridge had been the series’ dominant big man, averaging 35.3 PPG and 11.5 RPG as Portland took a 3-1 lead. Wednesday, Howard played well again (22 & 14) plus got some unexpected help from Lin, who scored 21 points off the bench. Aldridge was finally kept in check by Houston (8 & 8 on 3 of 12 shooting) plus the Portland bench accounted for just FIVE points (combined 2 of 11 shooting). An issue for Houston has to be, can the Rockets get two more wins, if Harden can’t start shooting better? He’s averaging 25.4 PPG in the series but he’s converting only 34.7% of all FGs, including 25.0% on threes.
Bottom line is that the Raptors took a 3-2 lead in their series with the Nets but one wonders how the team could blow ALL of a lead which at one time reached 26 points! Toronto led Brooklyn 94-72 with 11:23 remaining in the fourth quarter but Joe Johnson’s (30 points) three-pointer tied the game at 101-all, at the 3:18 mark (capped a 29-7 Nets run). The game was again tied at 106-all with 1:23 left but the Raptors never trailed after Lowry’s three-pointer with 1:04 left to go. Lowry scored 36 points and backcourt partner DeRozan added 23 points. Like Washington’s backcourt duo of Beal and Wall, Toronto’s duo has really made a name for itself this postseason, as DeRozan has averaged 24.2 PPG and Lowry 21.8-4.4-5.2.
The Spurs never trailed in their Game 5 win against the Mavs but San Antonio was never able to shake Dallas, either. The ATS winner was decided late, when Vince Carter’s three-pointer cut the san Antonio lead to 105-99. Ginobili TWICE made just one of two FTs in the final 21 seconds, giving San Antonio a 109-103 win, as a 6 1/2-point favorite. Nowitzki had his best game of the series (26 & 15), Carter had 28 and Monta Ellis 21 (he leads the Mavs this series, averaging 20.4 PPG). Harris made a HUGE splash in the first two games (18.5 PPG) but has averaged 5.0 PPG on 6 of 23 shooting (26.1%) the last three games. Parker fought off an ankle injury to score 23 points and how about San Antonio’s starting frontcourt? Splitter had 17 & 12, Duncan 16 & 12 and Leonard 15 & 8. Ginobili had 19 points and is having a terrific series (19.6-4.0-4.4).
Heading into tonight’s three, Game 6 contests, home teams are 18-21 SU, a winning percentage of .462. Home teams are really struggling ATS at 13-23-3 (36.1%) or minus-12.1 net games. “Zig-Zaggers,” who have rarely shown a profit for some time now in the NBA postseason, are “stuffing their pockets” so far, as last night’s 3-0 mark makes them 19-9-3 ATS, or plus-9.1 net games. Talk about “stuffing one’s pockets,” over bettor can’t wipe that collective smile off their faces, cashing 26 of 39 ‘tickets,’ a 67% win rate!
In all three games tonight, one team will be facing elimination. In the first two games of the night, it’s the road team (and the higher seed), which has its back to the wall. The Pacers are the East’s No. 1 seed but Indiana takes the court tonight in Atlanta (at 7:05 ET on the NBA Network) down 3-2. Oklahoma City is the West’s No. 2 seed but the Thunder will also find themselves down 3-2 when they take the court tonight (at 8:05 ET on TNT) in Memphis against the Grizzlies. The last four games in this series have been decided in OT. Much has been made of the fact that the Hawks are trying to become just the sixth No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 seed but let me add that No. 7 seeds have fared just as poorly against No. 2 seeds, as No. 8s have against No. 1s. The fact is, if the Grizzlies can get one more win over the Thunder, they will also become just the sixth No. 7 to beat a No. 2 in the NBA’s first round. The Indiana/Atlanta game is a pick’em (total is 186 1/2), while the Thunder are favored by 2 1/2 points (total is 185).
The third and final game of the night (and the second-half of TNT’s doubleheader at 10:35 ET), is the “Donald Sterling series,” featuring the Clippers and Warriors. The Clippers seemed more relaxed after Adam Silver announced his lifetime ban on Donald Sterling Tuesday night at Staples Center, taking a 3-2 lead with a 113-103 win. Relaxed, relieved and ready to resume their championship chase, the Clippers will look to finish off the Warriors, tonight. LA is favored by 1 1/2 points (total is 209 1/2) but it’s hard not to note that the Clippers are trying to win just the team's THIRD playoff series since Sterling bought the franchise in 1981. Then again, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said his players have been just as drained the past five days by the Sterling scandal, as LA’s players. We’ll see.